Fully Funded Studentship: Dual stable isotope determination of nitrogen transformation in a lowland arable catchment under different cultivation practices (HISCOCK_U14EE)

Deadline: 6th January 2014.

Supervisor: Dr Kevin Hiscock K.Hiscock@uea.ac.uk

The Project:

Over the last century there has been a dramatic perturbation of the global nitrogen budget which has led to a doubling of reactive nitrogen in the environment.  The majority of the anthropogenic budget is due to fertiliser production, reflecting changes over the last 50 years in agricultural practices to increase food production.  The accumulation of reactive nitrogen in the environment results in detrimental effects including increased aquatic biomass productivity leading to hypoxia, eutrophication and a loss of species diversity.

Reactive nitrogen may be removed from the terrestrial environment and transformed to N2 gas through microbially-mediated denitrification.  While some of the removal and storage of reactive nitrogen occurs within the landscape, a significant proportion is thought to occur within rivers and groundwater.  The hyporheic zone represents the interface between groundwater and surface water within fluvial sediments where denitrification is considered to provide a major contribution to the reduction of catchment nitrogen exports. 

This proposed PhD study will apply the dual stable isotopes of nitrogen and oxygen with solute flux mass-balance calculations to determine the main sources of nitrogen runoff in a lowland river draining an agriculturally impacted catchment.  An additional aim is to determine whether changes in cultivation practices from deep ploughing in autumn to minimum cultivation (e.g. strip tillage) with the autumn planting of cover crops can mitigate the impact of diffuse nitrate pollution from arable agriculture.  The study area is located in the Wensum catchment and is part of the Wensum Demonstration Test Catchment Project (see www.wensumalliance.org.uk). 

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This PhD proposal offers an excellent opportunity for training in field and laboratory methods in environmental sciences.  The School of Environmental Sciences at UEA has state-of-the-art facilities for stable isotope and hydrochemical analysis and training will be given in these methods.  Employment prospects in environmental protection of water quality and in sustainable land management practices are excellent.  Candidates with a good first degree (2i or above) in Environmental Sciences, Earth Sciences, Geography, Environmental Chemistry or a related subject are welcome to apply.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the newly-created ENV East Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) – a collaboration led by the University of East Anglia, with the Universities of Essex and Kent, and twenty other partners. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the Studentship Competition. The interview dates will be 14th and 15th February 2014 at one of the three Universities listed above.

Entry Requirements:

First degree (2.1) in a relevant subject such as Environmental Sciences, Earth Sciences, Geography or Environmental Chemistry.


Funding is available for this project. For full details visit: www.uea.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research-degrees/science/environmental-sciences.

To discuss the application process or particular projects, please contact the: Admissions Office, email: pgr.enquiries.admiss@uea.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)1603 591709. 

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